Recommendations from “Amber Life Cancer Clinic” oncologist Dr. Linda Brokane for cancer patients and their relatives
It is difficult to win the battle on your own
I always tell my patients that there are two important beliefs when being faced with an oncological disorder. The first one – is that life does not end with cancer diagnosis. The second – patient should not remain alone during the whole cancer treatment process. Under no circumstances a patient shouldn’t be in isolation from society, because nothing is more healing than a human contact.
Of course, it is not easy – not emotionally nor physically – to not only protect yourself, but also relatives who are also affected by the shock of the diagnosis.
It is benevolent to have a strong support from the loved ones, but it is not always manageable because patients might want to protect their relatives from emotional burden.
Therefore, I always try to explain that, if it is difficult to share emotions with the family, there are available support groups that unite patients with cancer. Who else can better understand the other experience, if not a person who is experiencing a similar health struggle?
From my experience, I can say that the attitude towards being a cancer patient varies from country to country. Of course, it’s very emotionally difficult for anyone to overcome their first shock when finding out about a malignant tumor, which might be one of the worst moments.
Sometimes patients perceive this message with absolute devastation; therefore it’s so important to be aware that life does not end with cancer.
Other patients try to understand the diagnosis with a great deal of motivation and inquisitiveness – to find out what to do so they can heal and recover. Here communication becomes very important – to see other patients, to hear their stories about their experience. “You have a cancer” – the diagnosis is never easy, even if it is discovered in early stages, even, if the tumor has already been successfully removed, it can lead to a psychological trauma that must be dealt with. Again, I want to repeat that the most important thing is not to try to fight the disease alone, but to be opened and to look for support.
The relatives must be understandable and nearby
Not only the patient suffers from a serious diagnosis, it is a serious test for the relatives as well. They must try to provide support to the patient, but without exaggerating. We must be able to listen and accept the decisions of the patient. It must be understood that the patient most likely has to face his whole life with cancer diagnosis and that the life has taken a 360 degree turn in a different direction. At the time of being diagnosed with cancer diagnosis, for many patients comes a state of shock – it’s time to wait, give themselves time to process and swallow all the emotions, at that moment words might be useless. It’s hard to think rationally when emotions are heightened. After taking in these emotions, it is important to take care of the patient, support, perhaps, provide some information about recovery, but always keep in mind that it is, first of all, a person’s decision – It is his health, and his views and feelings are decisive, which should be accepted by others.
In my practice, there have been cases where patients tell me about a wonderful, supportive family, but at the same time they are experiencing difficulties, feelings are unclear, because relatives refuse to accept their decisions – by trying to impose opinions or overly teach. Of course, they do not want to harm the patient, but the patient feels pressured and misunderstood. Imagine – that the patient already has to process the diagnosis, but everyone from all sides is trying to tell something, give advice. Others must understand what the patient needs in a current moment and should try not to overwhelm the patient by shaking his inner core. It is also important to accept a cancer patient as a complete human being, because attitude that “you are different” can be very discouraging. That can create a situation when surrounded by others a patient remains alone with the illness – this is the last thing that should be allowed. Related literature can also help both the patient and relatives – there are various biographical books describing different recovery paths. One of the books called Grace and Grit, published in 1991 by Ken Wilber I found of great value. Throughout the book he tells a story how he was supporting his wife whilst fighting breast cancer.
In the hardest times it`s when we find the greatest strength in ourselves
I work both with local and international patients. If we are talking about the differences between patients from abroad, people from warmer and more developed countries stand out with more passion and courage to do everything to get better and combat the disease. This can be explained by various aspects. There is definitely a wide range of information available on different illnesses – English-speaking people, for obvious reasons have much more of the resources on the web and via books. I enjoy working with patients who try to get more apprehension about the diagnosis, asking unclear questions, because it is their life, their health. This is when a patient decides to take on responsibility and take a part in the recovery process rather than leave it to the doctor. Yes, I would like to encourage every patient to follow these principles! I can safely say that psychologically there is no limit to what one can accomplish. And it often happens that in the most difficult times we realize it and learn from it.
It is necessary to ensure that active lifestyle becomes a routine
Of course, great importance for recovery and overall health maintenance is in the physical activity. If there is any hobby, it should definitely be maintained during the recovery too – be it jogging, walking or anything else. Depending on the illness, the side effects of the treatment, physical fitness should be adjusted accordingly. In turn, if such a passion for sport or hobby does not exist, it must be found. In order for cancer not to develop, there are physiological aspects to consider – the cardiovascular system should be held fit and active, the metabolism must be regulated, waste products have to be released. Physical movements are always an indispensable contribution to one’s own health – that is what cannot be replaced by medicine. The goal should be a moving lifestyle which becomes a part of the daily life – just like eating or breathing without which the body cannot be maintained.
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